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Impeachment Resolution A Matter Of Accountability

Impeachment Resolution A Matter Of Accountability


By Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

On Dec. 14, I joined with my colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee, Reps. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), in urging Chairman Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) to conduct hearings on a resolution of impeachment now pending consideration in that committee.

Among my constituents, there are those who say I have gone too far in calling for Congress to examine possible impeachable offenses by the Bush administration. There are also those who argue I have not gone far enough. In letters, emails, phone calls, personal conversations and listening sessions, I have heard passionate arguments from those who think we are losing our democracy and that I should do more to hold the Bush administration accountable for its actions.

The call to impeach is one I did not take lightly. But as we said in our letter to Chairman Conyers, the issues are too serious to ignore. We simply cannot discount or overlook numerous, credible allegations of abuse of power by the Bush administration that, if proven, may well constitute high crimes and misdemeanors under our Constitution. To prove this, we must follow the form of the signers of our own Declaration of Independence who wrote, "let Facts be submitted to a candid world."

Impeachment hearings in the House Judiciary Committee will establish the facts and prove whether or not this administration did the following:

• Spied on Americans without a court order in violation of the Fourth Amendment;

• Directed senior members of the administration to ignore subpoenas in contempt of Congress;

• Outed Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert agent of the CIA and then intentionally obstructed justice by disseminating false information through the White House press office;

• Ordered U.S. attorneys to pursue politically-motivated prosecutions in violation of the law;

• Fired eight U.S. attorneys and allowed others to retain their jobs because of partisan political considerations;

• Refused to provide subpoenaed emails and other documentation;

• Purposefully manipulated intelligence to deceive American citizens and the Congress;

• Fabricated a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to justify the war in Iraq - a war that has taken the lives of nearly 4,000 U.S. troops, injured 60,000 more, and that will cost more than a trillion dollars by many accounts;

• Alleged, despite all evidence to the contrary, a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida, to justify the war in Iraq;

• Manipulated and exaggerated evidence of Iran's nuclear weapons capabilities;

• Undermined national security by openly threatening aggression against Iran, despite no evidence that Iran has the intention or capability of attacking the U.S.;

• Suspended habeas corpus by claiming the power to declare any person an "enemy combatant" - ignoring the Geneva Convention protections that the U.S. helped create;

• Endorsed torture and rendition of prisoners in violation of international law and stated American policy and values, and destroyed videotaped evidence of such torture;

• Awarded unlawful no-bid contracts to political friends at home and abroad; and

• Skirted legal consequences by employing paid mercenaries to act as bodyguards for American diplomats in Iraq.

The abuses of this administration demand a formal response. Congressional oversight is a fundamental part of our constitutionally-proscribed system of checks and balances.

I had hoped that Congress could begin to repair the damage that has been done to our democracy, our Constitution and our standing in the world, so that censure or impeachment could be averted. Unfortunately, this administration not only fails to accept responsibility for its misdeeds, but it also blocks attempts to right the wrongs and address the tragic consequences of those misdeeds. We have seen the American people's will thwarted by the exercise of veto power. We have seen subpoenas ignored. We have seen signing statements used to circumvent the law of the land.

If we fail to take action to either impeach or repair the damage, then the next president will "inherit" unchecked powers. Unchecked powers are unacceptable no matter who is president.

It is unlikely that impeachment will move forward this session. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) expressed her view that impeachment should be "taken off the table," and that is her prerogative. I took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution. That sacred pledge gives me no choice but to call for executive branch accountability in any and all forms possible.

*************

Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, represents Wisconsin's second congressional district.

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